All in all I found the deep hues of picturesque Rhodes dazzling in the sunshine, with the bright white of the houses in stunning contrast with the deep blue of the sea and the abundant violet/pink bougainvillea. Lindos is especially lovely, and we had a couple of happy wanders there, enjoying April sunshine in the tiny car-free streets. Here are a few photos:
Maybe I’m being overly simplistic, but I can’t help feeling that given the high level of unemployment on this extremely tourism-reliant island, a new job sector would be very welcome! I believe Greece as a whole has been very slow to encourage recycling; the vast majority of the country’s waste is still buried in landfill sites (80% in 2013 according to this BBC report: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25454100 . So there must be plenty of scope for a recycling initiative where local people collect recyclables, take them away to some facility and dispose of them properly. The bins in Rhodes are emptied every day... and every day they’re crammed with clean cardboard, plastic, paper and all sorts of stuff that could be handled in far more positive ways. I tried not to dwell on the waste situation on day four of the four-day Easter weekend (Greek Orthodox calendar!), when bin bag piles abounded and skip-type bins were overflowing onto the pavement... there simply must be a better way.
Fortunately, there are plenty of lovely litter-free zones on Rhodes! We enjoyed a great walk in the area around Kritinia Castle on the island’s north-western coastline, following my favourite kind of trail: completely invisible against the rugged scenery unless you happen to be on it, keeping your eyes peeled for the next cairn, or blob of blue or red paint to guide you forward!
We visited a little place called Prasonisi, a beautiful beach at the southern tip of the island where two seas meet: the wilder Aegean to the west flowing into the calmer, warmer Mediterranean to the east. I was fortunate enough to see this phenomenon at both tips of the island, in fact: the other was at the top of Rhodes town, the island’s northernmost point. There’s a battle going on at Prasonisi, though :( On the beach we came across a call to arms: a large, prominent sign outlining plans to build a coal-fired power station on that very spot and urging people to get behind the campaign to stop it. “Save Prasonisi!”, it pleads, highlighting Rhodes’s still-unexploited potential for solar, wind and hydro power, which should take precedence over the proposed fossil fuel energy. However, I fear the battle is slowly being lost... we drove away past a big construction complex that looked very like the much-feared structure the campaigners were trying to block...
Water is obviously a precious resource on this sun-baked island, and yet there are many hundreds of healthy-looking olive trees! These are very suited to the Greek climate, with shallow root systems extending outwards near the surface, ensuring that in soil that only gets wet briefly and superficially, the trees can still find the water they need to thrive. Olive trees are highly tolerant to drought, in fact, and can survive on little water for days and even weeks. While surface irrigation (through holey hoses!) is visible in many places across Rhodes, the soil in between rows of trees is extremely dry. Many trees have whitewash painted on the bottom few feet of their trunks, to prevent “sun scald” – the tree equivalent of sunburn! Just like human skin, tree bark can blister and develop lesions if exposed to too much bright sunlight, and the damaged spots can then become entry points for disease, rot or unwanted insects that can destroy a tree from within. Applying a water-based latex paint is one method of preventing such damage before it starts. Here you can see a photo of a white-painted tree trunk next to a rather beautiful Greek Orthodox church!
I can also recommend Lindos art gallery as a superb place to discover upcycling in action! They have many lovely pieces painted on salvaged wood, and if you look closely you’ll see bits of wire in place of door handles, sprigs of thyme providing the trunks of painted trees, and a number of clever techniques used to create a 3D effect. The artists are almost all local, and do a fine job of showcasing the island’s classic Greek blues and whites. You can find out more by visiting the gallery’s website: www.lindos-artgallery.com